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Graphics: Rogue States utilizes the same grainy, dated look as the original Real War. Although the game will run smoothly on just about any system, its terrain and structures are poorly detailed and have fuzzy textures. Not only that, its units are so microscopic that you’ll sometimes have trouble seeing them, even when using the game’s zoom feature. There are, however, a few attractive special effects, such as vehicles exploding. Rogue States includes three resolution options ranging from 640×480 to 1024×768. Unfortunately, no matter which resolution you choose, you’ll have to live with the same sparsely detailed units and structures. That being said, you won’t need a speedy machine to get smooth frame rates, although even at brisk speeds, Rogue States‘ animation is blatantly choppy.
Interface: The product’s installation takes up a relatively modest amount of space, weighing in at around 600 MB. You won’t have any problems either installing or uninstalling Rogue States. Its menus are easily navigable and will allow you to adjust basic features like sound and music volume. Unfortunately, the in-game interface is plagued by the same problems as the original Real War. For instance, you’re unable to double click and select all units of a particular type, a standard feature in today’s real-time strategy titles. Still, Rogue States‘ interface isn’t only easy to use, but also is well organized. All of the different types of units are sorted into land, air, sea and Special Forces components, allowing you to select what you want in a hurry. The mini-map doesn’t include any unique features, although it serves as admirably as what you’d find in a typical real-time strategy offering.
Gameplay: Rogue States is a fairly simple game to play. You can jump right in without significant experience in the real-time strategy genre, although informative tutorials can set the stage for new players and tell them everything they’ll need to know. The small number of controls necessary to play definitely shortens the learning curve. The user-friendly manual is fairly comprehensive, numbering close to 70 pages in length. You can also find Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” included on the CD, providing interesting reading for military history buffs.
Unfortunately, though its atmosphere is a friendly one, many players will be frustrated by the small amount of control they have over their units. Although selecting the unit you want is a snap, actually getting them to carry out your orders is a different matter entirely. They’ve also got the inadequate path finding their cousins from the original Real War were cursed with, meaning they’re constantly stuck somewhere or wandering off, forcing you to search the length of the map for them. One particularly annoying problem has to do with the naval transports that won’t load troops when ordered to do so.
The product’s campaign mode is on the short side, with only seven missions per faction. After you’ve finished the campaigns, which shouldn’t take you too long, you’ll likely have no desire to replay them, as they’re linear and the unfolding of events doesn’t change. Rogue States‘ campaign won’t have you on the edge of your seat, though if you’re interested in current events, you’ll probably want to see how the plot turns out.
Multiplayer: Rogue States‘ improves on its predecessor’s multiplayer capabilities with innovative modes of play like Alliance and Component Commander, allowing two players to control the same army. You’ll be able to play over a LAN or GameSpy Arcade with little lag. Since both sides are almost the same, there are no balancing problems, yet there’s no variety, either. You’ll have some fun with the product’s multiplayer mode, but the sameness of the two sides will limit your entertainment. Thankfully, you won’t have any trouble hosting a Rogue States multiplayer match, as the multiplayer interface is easy to work through.
Sound FX: You’ll hear the same sound effects in Rogue States that you heard in Real War. The American unit acknowledgements consist of the same monotonous, generic speech that you’ll find in any other real-time strategy game. Thankfully, the ILA’s Arabic and Russian confirmations add a little variety. Rogue States‘ sounds of battle are decent, though not spectacular. A fighter breaking the sound barrier or a missile connecting with its target will keep you awake, but you won’t be jumping out of your chair, partly because Rogue States doesn’t employ 3D sound.
Musical Score: Though not overly creative, Rogue States‘ soundtrack fits the mood of the action very well. The music will suitably pump you up for the fast-paced battles. ILA players will hear a rousing Middle Eastern melody while those who lead the American armies will listen to a techno-style modern tune. Annoyingly, each side’s single track repeats itself endlessly.
Intelligence & Difficulty: Just like in the original, artificial intelligence is Rogue States‘ biggest downfall. Basic functions that gamers expect their real-time strategy titles to have can’t be found. For example, in most RTS offerings, when a unit is under fire, it automatically retaliates. Unfortunately, Rogue States‘ units often fail to immediately retaliate when fired on. This means that you’ll constantly have to baby-sit your forces instead of counting on them to look after themselves.
Rogue States‘ AI is also incapable of anything beyond basic tactics. Don’t expect your enemy to send out scouts to find your location and probe your defenses for weaknesses. The AI is much more likely to just throw everything it has at you. If that fails, as it often does, the computer will learn absolutely nothing from its mistake and keep blindly throwing troops at you. The single-player campaign’s fun factor is greatly diminished by the lack of reasonable competition from Rogue States‘ AI.
Rogue States doesn’t have any difficulty settings for its campaign, though the skirmish mode allows you to adjust the AI’s competency before heading into battle. Unfortunately, whether you’ve chosen easy or hard difficulty, the challenge posed by the AI will remain the same. For example, on one skirmish desert map I played, I set the AI to the easiest setting, prepared defensive positions and waited for the enemy to attack. When the strike finally came, my forces easily repelled it. I later played the same map with the AI set to the highest level. The AI attacked my base in the same manner. This indicates that there’s little difference between the two settings. Both in skirmish mode and in the campaign, experienced real-time strategy veterans will have little difficulty in defeating their AI opponent. Fans of the genre looking for a challenge are unlikely to find it here.
Overall: Though Rogue States improves on the original Real War in several key areas, including its multiplayer mode and interface, it still carries its predecessor’s most devastating afflictions. The game’s outdated look and obtuse artificial intelligence make it hard to recommend Rogue States, especially when its competitors in the genre are having so much success. Though Rogue States‘ multiplayer action will entertain those looking for some innovative strategic action that they can play with their friends, real-time strategy games like Age of Mythology and Warcraft III not only show a lot more polish than Rogue States, but also are a whole lot more fun.
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